The long awaited regional standby military force will be launched at the 27th Summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government Summit that gets underway in Lusaka, Zambia, on August 16-17.
Code named SADC Standby Brigade, the force which is aimed at stabilising the region will, from time to time, draw troops from all 14 SADC member states.
Director of SADC organ for politics, defence and security Tantie Mothae said in an interview on Friday that the planning element of the standby force would be based in Gaborone at the SADC Secretariat.
But Mothae indicated that the force would carry out its duties as per the sanction of the SADC Summit and that it is a product of SADC." It has received support from the member states and they (member states) have pledged to supply troops and police officers, when they are called upon. It will be a standby force which could be called upon for peace-support operations in the region, across the continent or beyond," he said in a telephone interview.
Asked to confirm reports that the project was a United States of America (US) initiative, the SADC official flatly dismissed the speculation saying, "this is a pure SADC initiative, it was formulated strictly by the member states".
At a media briefing on Thursday, SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao announced that the military wing would be launched at a venue to be announced in due course. This multilateral SADC force consists of three components - military, police, and civilian.
The Gaborone-based SADC chief said: "It has been set up within the provisions of the African Union that require that each of its five regional economic communities need to have such standby forces with the sole aim of peace-support operations in the region," Salamao said.
Another interesting issue to be discussed in Lusaka, this time by the SADC Council of Ministers, which precedes the 27th Heads of States Summit, is the matter of regional and continental integration. Both agenda items come at a time when opinion is divided among the people of the region as some feel that the integration should not be pushed until all the member countries have shown significant strides in political and economic progression.
Supporters of the notion have gone to the extent of suggesting that there be a single currency for the region just like the European Union has the Euro. But the way forward will be known when the SADC Council of Ministers converge in Lusaka, Zambia on August 10-12 to look at these and other items.
According to the SADC chief, the items will appear as part of the special reports to be tabled at the Council of Ministers meeting. He said about the two items on integration: "As directed by the SADC Extraordinary Summit meeting of October 23, 2006, the SADC Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration has carried out certain specific actions and will present a comprehensive report on regional economic integration to the summit.
Council is expected to consider the decisions on the Protocol on Relations between the African Union and the regional economic communities and to mandate the executive secretary to sign the protocol on behalf of SADC," Salomao said in a statement.